Help is a chatbot away

Bridging the gap: Firzana (top right) sharing her inspiration for developing the Lapor Predator chatbot.

PETALING JAYA: Victims of online child sexual exploitation and abuse can now seek help from Malaysia’s first chatbot Lapor Predator to lodge reports against sexual predators.Lapor Predator is designed by youth organisation Monsters Among Us (MAU) which works towards encouraging Internet users, primarily survivors and witnesses of such exploitation and abuse, to come forward and highlight the cases.

They can report the cases on the chatbot at www.laporpredator.orgFor now, Lapor Predator is only available on web browsers, but MAU plans to expand it to messaging platforms.

“After a child abuse video was shared on Twitter in 2019, many users alerted us and we reported it to the authorities, but we realised that many people do not know how to report it, ” said MAU founder Firzana Redzuan.

She said they wanted to bridge the information gap by acting as a middleman via the chatbot to relay such cases to the authorities.

“We know the struggles. We know it’s scary when it comes to talking to the police. We are here to make it easier, ” added Firzana.

The reports, she said, could be done anonymously.

However, detailed information about the complaints for follow-up purposes was most welcome.

Once a report is made, the team will verify it, identify the evidence and request any other information that may be necessary.

Child protection officers from MAU will then forward the report to the relevant authorities on a weekly basis and regularly provide updates on the progress of the case.

The virtual launch of the chatbot was held on Saturday.

It was attended by representatives from CyberSecurity Malaysia (CSM) and Friends-International, among others.

CSM senior vice-president Lt-Kol (Rtd) Mustaffa Ahmad spoke of how, in some cases, children who were being harassed or groomed online would not tell their parents about their situation.

Friends-International founder Sebastien Marot stressed the importance of children being seen as equal and competent beings who deserve protection from violation.

Kampung Tunku assemblyman Lim Yi Wei, who also spoke at the event, encouraged youths to commit to calling out online sexual and predatory behaviour.

In 2017, a similar chatbot called Ana, focused on sex education, was developed by R.AGE, Zeno and Hyperlab after the successful Predator In My Phone documentary campaign that contributed to Parliament passing the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017.

Unicef Malaysia is now working with the Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia and Star Media Group Bhd’s investigative journalism team R.AGE to further expand Ana to cover wider topics on sexual and reproductive health and rights education for children.

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